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Staff editorial: Abstain from abstinence-only

Schools should expand standards to include abstinence-plus guidelines

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Staff editorial: Abstain from abstinence-only

JagWire staff

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Despite all Mill Valley students being required to take a semester-long Health class, only 49 percent of students in a survey of 185 believe sexuality education in health class is sufficient. Inconsistent sexuality education standards throughout Kansas have led to some students receiving an inadequate abstinence-only education in their Health classes, leaving those students uneducated and unprepared.

This shortcoming is not the school’s fault. The state of Kansas requires that a sexuality unit be taught, but allows individual Health teachers to choose their curriculum as long as they meet a minimum baseline of teaching abstinence-focused sexuality education. This allows teachers to teach an abstinence-only curriculum without focusing on any measures of contraception or birth control. While this is permitted by Kansas, this policy is unrealistic and leaves huge gaps in students’ knowledge of sexual health.

Legally, anyone in Kansas who is age 16 or older can consent to having sex. Additionally, in the state of Kansas, anyone of any age can receive birth control without needing parental permission. However, due to inconsistent policy and curriculum, the sexual education that students receive at that age may not actually include a comprehensive lesson about birth control or practicing safe sex.

Abstinence-only sexual education leads to students being uninformed about their own sexuality. Many students lacking an adequate sexuality education from their schools turn to their peers or the Internet for information. However, information from other students or the Internet can be inaccurate or embellished. If curriculum is limited to abstinence-only, there is no guarantee that students are achieving a comprehensive understanding of how to keep themselves safe from STIs or other risks.

Some parents and teachers may believe that students having a comprehensive knowledge of safe sex and contraceptives could lead to an increased amount of students having premarital sex, but that is not the case. According to Advocates for Youth, a non-profit dedicated to promoting sexual health among teenagers, comprehensive sexuality education does not lead to more sex among teens, and also leads to fewer STIs among teens.

Overwhelmingly, comprehensive sexuality education is supported by both statistics and public opinion. Another Advocates for Youth survey revealed that 94 percent of adults believe that sexuality education should teach about contraception, and 89 percent believe that sexuality education should focus on avoiding STIs and unavoided pregnancies.

As the Health education standards come under review by the state Board of Education, revising said standards to include a comprehensive curriculum is a must. Abstinence-only programs fail to address realistic issues. While we believe that such programs were developed with the best of intentions, they are inadequate in educating students. Better state standards that mandate a more comprehensive sexuality education program would be both more popular and more effective.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Staff editorial: Abstain from abstinence-only”

  1. Robyn Hayes on September 28th, 2018 11:46 am

    Although I think this article is well written and addresses good points and important information, somebody should have said something about or addressed the fact that “sexuality” education is not the same as “sexual” education. These two words are not interchangeable in todays society if we are teaching all aspects of sex ed.
    Sexuality is about who a person identifies as (Gay, Straight, Bi-sexual, Transgender)…and sexual is about issues relating to human sexuality, including emotional relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy, sexual activity, sexual reproduction, age of consent, reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe sex, birth control and sexual abstinence.

  2. Elizabeth Joseph on September 29th, 2018 8:48 pm

    When putting together the article, we as a staff had discussed how we would refer to the topic. We ultimately chose to use “sexuality education” because that is how the state Board of Education labels the curriculum in the health education standards, and we wanted to remain consistent.

    Thank you for your concern. We appreciate your input!

Mill Valley News intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. Mill Valley News does not allow anonymous comments, and Mill Valley News requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.

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Staff editorial: Abstain from abstinence-only